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The second encounter with President Ayub Khan

Published : Monday, 8 November, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 756

The second encounter with President Ayub Khan

The second encounter with President Ayub Khan

My first meeting with President Ayub Khan has already been mentioned. It was in 1960 when I was a student of the 2nd year B A (Hons) class and elected Literary Secretary of the SM Hall Students Union of Dhaka University.

The second encounter took place in early 1967 when I was a young teacher of the same University. It was probably in accordance with an informal decision of the Central government that Altaf Gouhar the well known and influential Secretary for Information of Pakistan initiated a move that was novel. He had a group of teachers mainly of the Dhaka University assembled in a brief meeting in Dhaka. As far as I remember, it was a late spring morning when we met him at the office of the Pakistan Council for National Integration. Among those present were Dr Muzaffar Ahmed Choudhury, Mr Noor Mohammad Mia, Dr Hassan Zaman, Dr M Rashiduzzaman, I and a few others.

At the outset Mr Altaf Gouhar in his characteristic, articulate and smart style put forth the objectives of the meeting. It was to consider the possibility of designing and writing books on Political Science and Civics in a standardized and uniform manner. He further said such books would be used in educational institutions all over Pakistan. These books written by cooperative efforts of teachers would help national integration by promoting uniformity of thought and vision in the minds of the youth. He said if the teachers thought that the proposal deserved positive consideration, a meeting could be organized later with the President for final policy decision. All present except Mr Noor Mohammad Mia remained silent. Evidently they did not dismiss the proposal instantly.

I remember that only Noor Mohammad Mia in a distinctly defiant manner differed explicitly. He clearly said, "I don't see any need for compiling such a book. Plenty of standard books on the subject already exist, adding another one will be superfluous". Altaf Gouhar was taken aback by this and said, "you think that such a book is not needed"? Mr Noor Mohammad Mia replied, 'yes' and walked out of the meeting. Secretary Altaf Gouhar calmly summed up the meeting as having agreed to go ahead with the next move, meeting with the President at a later date.

Accordingly, in the month of May, 1967 a small group of teachers of Political Science of the Dhaka University including me was invited to Rawalpindi, Islamabad to have a meeting with President Ayub Khan. I was keenly interested in the trip as it would be my first visit to West Pakistan. After all if I did join the CSP, I would have to stay in Lahore for the first year of training at the Civil Service Academy in Lahore. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight took us to Lahore. The plane was a Trident.

After a short wait at the airport we were taken to a smaller Fokar Friendship F-27 Plane which flew for some forty minutes and landed at the Chaklala Airport, Rawalpindi. The team from Dhaka was then taken to Islamabad, the new capital of Pakistan still in its early phase of development. The members of the team were put up in the Luxurious Hotel Schereazade which at that time stood lonely overlooking barren stretch.

Only the newly built secretariat complex nearby gave it comforting company. The day of our scheduled meeting with the President at Rawalpindi soon arrived. We got ready and started early from Islamabad, a few miles distant from Pindi. We were all in lounge suits excepting Dr Muzaffar Ahmed Choudhury comfortably but somewhat informally dressed in white safari. We kept on eying him throughout the journey in an air conditioned microbus to the President's House in Rawalpindi. He was, however, non-chalant. We waited in a large well decorated room in the President's House for some time. Then the President walked in.

To our surprise, he was also wearing a white Safari. The composer of a care free Dr Muzaffar Ahmed Choudhury seemed to increase. President Ayub Khan was flanked by his veteran Information Secretary Altaf Gauhar and illustrious Education Secretary Qudrat Ullah Shahab. Mr Shahab was not only a seasoned Secretary of the CSP cadre but also reputed writer and novelist. His famous Urdu novel. "Ya Khuda" which contained a highly critical description of the mistreatments and sufferings of the Muslim refugees from India who in order to escape persecution of communal riots in 1947 came to seek shelter in the new born state of predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

The Information Secretary Altaf Gouhar outlined the aims and objectives of the meeting. President Ayub patiently listened. The Education Secretary Qudrat Ullah Shahab remained quiet and took notes. It seemed that there was incongruence in the proceedings. The Information Secretary took initiative in a matter which was the domine of the Education Ministry. It appeared to us that Altaf Gouhar was close enough to the President to overrun bureaucratic barriers. Later experience showed me that in a personal system of Government bureaucrats enjoying the confidence of the Chief executive of the country could gateway with transgressing other's jurisdictions.

Mr Altaf Gouhar did not however, have an easy sail. Qudrat Ullah Shahab, the Education Secretary Pointed out that wider and more consultations with stake holders would be necessary before finalizing in the policy decision. He said softly but assertively that to do otherwise might lead to opposition and resistance to the introduction of uniform text book for higher levels of education. We could see that President Ayub discerned the deference between the statements of the Information and Education Secretaries.

He said, "The two of you should work together in this matter and take detailed advice and counsel from distinguished educationist and teachers like those present here". While having tea and snacks with us the President was informal and wanted to know how things were with the Dhaka University. He seemed to be quite satisfied with the apparently peaceful and quiet situation in East Pakistan and its higher educational Institutions including the Dhaka University.

On that summer day neither President Ayub Khan nor any of us seemed to have the slightest idea about the heated political developments during the next two years. These happenings were to spell the end of the decade long rule of President Ayub Khan. As far as we were concerned the meeting with the President ended on an inconclusive note. There was, however, another related event as a follow-up in Dhaka during December, 1967.  
Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research (CDRB), and former
technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh, died on August 12, 2019. He contributed his writeups to the Daily Observer which are being
published regularly as
"The Symphony of Our Times".

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